Health & Safety

Safety measures to observe before, during and after Storm Surge

The Philippines, an island surrounded by bodies of water, is vulnerable to storm surges. Filipinos often hear in warnings in weather reports of a possible storm surge in coastal areas during typhoons. The populous Metro Manila experienced a storm surge caused by Typhoon Pedring in September 2011 when the sea walls of Manila Bay were destroyed and the US Embassy and Sofitel Philippine Plaza were submerged in floodwaters.

A storm surge causes severe flooding, that was all we knew until the devastation of Tacloban City by Super Typhoon Yolanda on November 8, 2013. The images and the testimonials that we saw and heard in media became a grim realization that Filipinos must not only know but try to understand what a storm surge is.

Some storm surge survivors in Tacloban City claimed that if the warnings were that of a tsunami, they would have known what to expect and do. ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol anchor, Ted Failon, who had first- hand experience in ground-zero on the day of the devastation, commented there was no direct translation of storm surge in Filipino. He added that the nearest word to describe it is “daluyong” or “wave” or even “tidal wave.” Meanwhile, Dr. Armando Lee, a health emergency management staff from the Department of Health-National Capital Region suggested in a Facebook post to call a storm surge as “taclob,” a pun for “taklob” which means “to cover” and also “Tacloban,” the worst hit city.

Until such time that someone can come with the right and acceptable Filipino word for storm surge, it is important to define it first. A storm surge is not a tsunami or a tidal wave. A tsunami is a giant wave caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea or landslides into the sea, while a tidal wave is a gigantic wave caused by the force of the moon and sun (astronomical tide). A storm surge is the rising of the sea level associated with the passing of a tropical storm or typhoon. This is due to the push of strong winds on the water surface, the piling up of big waves, pressure setup and astronomical tide moving towards the shore. In other words, the stronger the winds or the larger the storm the higher the surge.

The DOH released the following advisory which is based on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) information on what to do before, during and after a storm surge.

Planning for a storm surge and evacuation could save lives. Be prepared. Know the hazards that may affect you, your family, and your home. Make plans for where you’ll go if told to evacuate. Have a disaster supply kit within reach. Stay tuned to local radio and television stations, and listen for advisories or specific instructions from your local officials.

Before A Storm Surge

  • Know if your area is at risk
  • Know the types of hazards that could affect your home and family
  • Assess your risks and identify ways to make your home and property more secure. Make a disaster evacuation plan.
  • If you live close to the floodplain, consider flood insurance.
  • Locate the safest areas in your home, and decide on an escape route should you need to evacuate.

During A Storm Surge

  • Monitor radio and television for the latest news and advisories.
  • If local officials ask you to evacuate, do so IMMEDIATELY!
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around, and go another way.
  • Keep children out of the water.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, DO NOT attempt to cross flowing water.
  • After the Flood

Return home only when officials have declared the area safe.

  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including gloves and boots. Make sure your food and water are safe.
  • Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula. (Remember that breastfeeding is a lifeline and a shield that protects infants in emergencies and disasters. – Ed)


This article was originally published in HealthBeat Issue No. 79 2013 of the Department of Health. Minor edits applied.


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How to live safe and healthy during the typhoon season

Here’s how!

• Make sure drinking water is from a safe source.
• When in doubt, do not drink. Boil it for 3 minutes or chlorinate drinking water to make it safe.

• Food should be well-cooked.
• Left-overs should be covered and kept away from household pests.
• Food waste should be disposed properly.

-Keep yourself dry and warm.

• Consult a doctor at once if you, or any member of your household, have any sign or symptom to prevent the spread of infection in the evacuation area.
• Common infections or diseases that may spread in an evacuation area include: coughs and colds, acute gastroenteritis, skin and eye infections, measles, dengue, leptospirosis, hepatitis A.
• Do not allow children wade in floodwaters to avoid diseases such as leptospirosis.
• Dispose all waste properly.
• Maintain personal hygiene, always wash your hands before and after eating and using the toilet.
• Put safety first. Avoid hanging wires and unstable structures.

Source: Department of Health

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How to protect yourself from deadly health hazards of La Niña

La Niña is a weather phenomena characterized by unusually cold ocean temperature in the Equatorial Pacific which causes increased numbers of tropical storms in the Pacific Ocean.

Health Effects

  • Disease related to contaminated water due to flooding, such as acute gastroenteritis, typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis A.
  • Disease related to wading in floodwaters contaminated with urine of infected animals, such as leptospirosis.
  • Disease brought by mosquitoes, such as dengue and malaria.
  • Accidents and injuries such as contusions, lacerations, fractures, electrocution.


  • Boil your drinking water (Upon reaching boiling point, extend boiling for two or more minutes) or Do water chlorination
  • Wash hands before preparing food and after using the toilet.
  • Avoid wading in floodwater. If you must, wear rubber boots.
  • Clean-up all possible mosquito breeding sites, such as vases, empty coconut shells, old tires and tin cans.

What to Do In Case of Flood

  • Stay inside a house or building during heavy rains.
  • Avoid wading and taking baths in floodwaters.
  • When a flood advisory is issued, residents in low lying areas should seek for higher grounds.
  • Avoid crossing low-lying areas and bridges during evacuation.

Source: Department of Health

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Health & Safety Tips during Haze

HAZE due to forest fire can cause air pollution which can bring about increased risks for Respiratory Tract Infections and Cardiac Ailments.

What to do?

Elderly, children and those with respiratory (Asthma ,COPD) and cardiovascular diseases:

  • Stay indoors with good ventilation
  • Wear appropriate dust masks when going outside the house.
  • Refrain from physical activities (exercise, etc) in heavily polluted areas.

Motorists should exercise extreme caution whenever on the road to prevent accidents.

  • Use headlights/foglights.
  • Follow the required minimum speed level and extreme caution in low, visibility driving.
  • Ensure that vehicle is in good running condition.

Stay away from low-lying areas where smoke and suspended particles may settle.

Consult a doctor if there is:

  • difficulty in breathing
  • cough
  • chest pain
  • increased tearing of the eyes
  • nose or throat irritation

Tune in to your radio or television for more health advisories.

Source: Department of Health

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Your Health and Safety when El Niño strikes

The El Niño phenomenon is characterized by extreme climatic conditions; extreme temperature rise with a little rainfall, and at the opposite extreme, there is unusually heavy rainfall.

Health Effects

  • Diseases related to water scarcity or shortage such as diarrhea and skin diseases
  • Red Tide Blooms : Paralytic shellfish poisoning
  • Disorders associated with high temperatures: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, exertional heat injury and heat stroke

What to do?

  • Conserve water and use it wisely.
  • Protect water sources from contamination.
  • Drink more fluids.
  • Listen to the updates on shellfish ban.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity.

Be prepared for the coming of El Niño phenomenon!

Source: Department of Health

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Health Alert for the Holiday Season

Here are some health tips for the Christmas Season:

  1. Plan Christmas activities for yourself and your family to prevent tension and stress.
  2. Take care of yourself and your family against changes in temperature. Children and adults may become susceptible to cough, colds and fever. If your cough, colds and fever is more than five days, consult your nearest health station.
  3. Prepare a well-balanced Noche Buena and Media Noche meals. Make sure that vegetable and fruits are on the table together with your traditional ham and queso de bola.
  4. Be kind to your heart. Eat a moderate amount of nutritious foods to sustain your daily activities.
  5. Drink plenty of liquids. Drink plenty of water and fruit juices to facilitate excretion.
  6. Have enough sleep. Give yourself enough sleep so that the mind and body can rest.
  7. Avoid crowded areas because bacteria that cause diseases multiply and spread easily. Airy and well- ventilated areas are essential to healthy living.
  8. Use environment-friendly Christmas decors that cost less and are not fire hazards. Save decors for next year and store them in a safe place.
  9. Buy toys with no pointed or sharp edges; nor too small toys that can cause choking.
  10. Do not use fireworks and firecrackers during the Holidays. Make some noise even without fireworks and firecrackers. Stay alive and whole for the coming year.

Source: Department of Health

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Diseases/Conditions to watch out during Summer Time

March to May is vacation time and fiesta season in the country. To avoid food poisoning, diarrhea, heat associated ailments and recreation-associated injuries, the public is advised to take the following precautions.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

  • Typhoid
  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A
  • Food Poisoning


  • Diarrheas
  • Sore Eyes
  • Measles (Tigdas)
  • Mosquito-borne Diseases
  • Dengue
  • Malaria

Other Conditions

  • Sunburn
  • Prickly Heat

Health Tips

Food and drinks

Cook food properly.

  • Preferably, foods must be eaten immediately after cooking (while still hot).
  • Left-over food should be refrigerated and reheated before being eaten.
  • Food handlers should wash their hands before and after food preparation.
  • If sick, you should avoid preparing food for others.
  • Avoid drinking water and iced beverages of doubtful quality.
  • If water quality is doubtful, boil your drinking water for at least 2 minutes.
  • Peel and wash fruits / vegetables before eating.
  • Wash hands before and after eating.

At the beach

  • Do not allow children to swim without the company of an adult who can swim and is not drunk.
  • Avoid staying under the sun with scanty clothes for more than 3 hours as this predisposes to sunburn, heat exhaustion and the worst, heat stroke.
  • Should you want a tan, drink plenty of fluids so as not to dehydrate yourself.

While on the road

  • Check your vehicle very well before going on a trip.
  • Bring your repair kit with you.
  • When drunk, never attempt to drive.

Source: Department of Health

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Diphtheria is a bacterial (toxin-related) disease. It is an acute pharyngitis, acute naso pharyngitis or acute laryngitis with a pseudomembrane formation in the throat.

 Infectious Agent: Corynebacterium diphtheria

 Reservoir: Man

 Incubation Period: 2 to 5 days or may be longer

 Mode of Transmission:

  • By droplets spread through sneezing, coughing and close personal contact.

 Period of Communicability:

  • May last for 2 to 3 weeks
    • May be shortened in patients with antibiotic treatment
    • Diphtheria transmission is increased in schools, hospitals, households and in crowded areas.


  • Immunization of infants with 3 doses of DPT (at ages 6 weeks old, 10 weeks old and 14 weeks old).

Source: Department of Health

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How migrant workers can avoid the deadly Ebola Virus


What is Ebola virus disease (EVD)?

Ebola is a severe, infectious often-fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) caused by infection with Ebola virus. It is very infectious, kills in a short time but can be prevented.

How it spreads?

The natural reservoir of the virus is unknown and it is not always clear how the virus infects humans. Usually, the first person gets infected through contact with an infected animal.

People can be exposed to the Ebola virus from direct physical contact with body fluids like blood, saliva, stool, urine, sweat etc. of an infected person and soiled linen used by a patient.

It can be spread through contact with objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

Incubation period is 2-21 days.

What are the signs and symptoms of EVD?

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Measles like rash
  • A rash, red eyes, hiccups and bleeding from body openings may be seen in some patients

How can it be prevented?

  • Avoid direct contact with body fluids of a person suffering from Ebola or a deceased patient by wearing gloves, goggles, and masks.
  • Persons suspected to be suffering from Ebola should be taken to the nearest health unit immediately for medical attention. Tracing and follow up of people who may have been exposed to Ebola through close contact with patients are essential.
  • Persons who have died of Ebola must be handled using strong protective wear and buried immediately.
  • Report any suspected cases of Ebola to the nearest health unit immediately.
  • Suspected cases should be isolated from other patients and strict barrier nursing techniques implemented.
  • All hospital staff should be briefed on the nature of the disease and its transmission routes. Particular emphasis should be placed on ensuring that invasive procedures such as the placing of intravenous lines and the handling of blood, secretions, catheters and suction devices are carried out under strict barrier nursing conditions. Hospital staff should have individual gowns, gloves, masks and goggles. Non-disposable protective equipment must not be reused unless they have been properly disinfected.
  • Infection may also spread through contact with the soiled clothing or bed linens from a patient with Ebola. Disinfection is therefore required before handling these items.
  • Communities affected by Ebola should make efforts to ensure that the population is well informed, both about the nature of the disease itself and about necessary outbreak containment measures, including burial of the deceased. People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried.


Source: World Health Organization (WHO)

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Top 5 well-grounded reasons why seafarers get HIV/AIDS


Among OFWs, seafarers are reported to be the most HIV/AIDS infected group.

Why? – is a particular ‘viral’ question which researcher Ernesto R. Gregorio Jr., MPH of University of the Philippines Manila tried once to fathom the answers. In line with his case study Seafarers’ Lived Experiences Aboard International Shipping Vessels: A Basis for Health Promotion Intervention, his seafarer informants told him these verbatim statements:

Whenever the ship docks, the women (female sex workers) run after us, the women in Brazil look like our local actresses here (in the Philippines).”

“Even in local ports like in the Philippines like in Pangasinan, Cebu, Batangas Cities, there were women who entered the ship and offered commercial sex. The same was true in Singapore and Thailand, in Thailand, women were already queued up as the ship arrives.”

Select International Teletransport Federation (ITF) published statements about HIV/AIDS can help us understand general reasons why seafarers easily acquire the viral disease.

Let me quote ITF’s remarks.

  1. Seafarers are away from home for long periods of time while at sea. Their human contact is limited to their workmates. Then, when they dock at port, many want to make up for the loss of contacts during the time on board.
  2. Seafarers are particularly hard to reach with HIV/AIDS Prevention activities, as they are away from their home countries for such a long time.
  3. Seafarers also suffer when shipping companies try to cut costs by flying ‘flags of convenience’ from countries which have lower standards for registering ships. This undermines safety standards, as well as efforts to provide good workplace HIV/AIDS policies.
  4. Women seafarers (on the other hand) are particularly vulnerable, and special care needs to be taken to consider their needs when developing interventions. Women seafarers regularly report sexual harassment and rape.
  5. On long journeys, relationships between male and female colleagues develop naturally. It is often in these situations that condom use declines even though the partners may not know their HIV status.

ITF strongly adverted that HIV/AIDs is now widely accepted as treat to social and economic development, to national security as well as to fabric of the societies.

In Philippines alone, a Department of Health (DOH) report showed that 25 Filipinos get diagnosed with Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) daily.


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Categories: Health & Safety, Overseas Filipino Workers Advisories | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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